Are There Sharks In Alaska – Surfers’ Guide

Are There Sharks In Alaska – Surfers’ Guide

According to Alaska is the ‘last frontier of surfing’.

If you want to surf far from the madding crowd, or should I say line-up, then Alaska is where it’s at! Alaska has over 34,000 miles of tidal shoreline. There are endless surf breaks, and lots of islands where you can find open ocean swells. The best time is spring (April) and fall (September).

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Of course, the water is cold. Around glaciers and river mouths it’s icy. You’ll need warm kit.  

Many professional surfers have included Alaska in their itineraries so, if it’s less people you want, then get there before, like climbing Mount Everest, the challenge becomes less ‘frontier’ and more ‘join the queue’.

There are three types of surfing you can do in Alaska.

There’s regular surfing. Seward, Yakutat, Sitka, Kodiak, and Montague Island are good for this.

You can ‘ride the bore tide’. Extreme low tides around the equinoxes in March and September produce the largest bores. Turnagain Arm experiences massive tidal fluctuations.

The third type is glacier wave surfing, which is only for the brave!

Alaskan Sharks

Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias)

The spiny dogfish earned its name from fishermen who observed them hunting in packs like dogs.  They prefer deeper waters.

Spiny dogfish are the primary shark species in the Gulf of Alaska. They are most often seen in waters around Yakutat, Haida and Tlingit.

Spiny Dogfish are not known to attack humans but surfers should be careful of their venomous spines.

Pacific Sleeper Shark (Somniosus pacificus)

The Pacific Sleeper Shark is so named in reference to its slow form of swimming through cold, deep waters. However, it’s capable of silent and extreme movement when hunting.

Are there sharks in Alaska – Surfers’ Guide

Pacific Sleeper Sharks are the largest of the shark species encountered in Alaskan waters, and the most elusive. They’ve been seen around Resurrection Bay and Prince William Sound.

There have been few encounters between humans and these sharks because this shark prefers deep, cold water. 

Salmon Shark (Lamna ditropis)

The Salmon Shark is one of five species that are endothermic, which means it’s warm blooded. They have the highest body temperature of all sharks. The Salmon Shark belongs to the family Lamnidae, which includes the Shortfin and Longfin Mako Sharks, the Porbeagle, or Mackerel, Shark and the Great White Shark. The Salmon Shark looks like a smaller version of the Great White.

Are there sharks in Alaska – Surfers’ Guide

Salmon Shark are fast and ferocious.

The Salmon Shark is viewed as potentially dangerous to man but has never been positively identified in any shark attack. Unsubstantiated reports regarding this species could be confusing it with the Great White. Divers have reported no antagonistic behavior from them.

Blue Shark (Prionace glauca)

The Blue Shark is a requiem shark, which means it gives birth to live young, migrates to feeding and breeding areas, and is found in warmer waters, though preferring cooler waters. They are a rich indigo blue which fades to a sapphire blue; hence the name.

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The Blue Shark is near threatened.

There have only been 13 reported cases of Blue Shark attacks on humans in a 400-year period. These attacks usually happened during shipwrecks. Blue sharks don’t usually attack humans, but they’re not particularly timid either and should be treated with respect. They are curious and may approach to investigate and may bite if spearfishing has occurred.

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

Great White Sharks can swim at speeds approaching 25 miles per hour (40 km per hour) with burst speeds to 35 miles per hour (56 km per hour).

Great White Sharks were observed in Alaskan waters in the 1970s, and since then more observations have shown that they use Alaskan waters year-round if they secure enough food.

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They’ve been seen patrolling nearshore waters and regularly visit the waters of Southeast Alaska, off Yakutat, in Prince William Sound, in Cook Inlet, along the Alaska Peninsula and in the Aleutian Islands. Co-operative hunting of Beluga Whales has been observed.

Many fishermen have seen them or had them tangled in their nets.

The Great White Shark is known to make unprovoked attacks on surfers but usually these are non-lethal. It’s likely the shark mistakes the surfer for one of their prey species. They are not labelled as aggressive but the rapid nature of attacks makes them especially dangerous.

Basking Sharks (Cetorhinus maximus)

Basking Sharks are so named because of their preference to bask in the upper layers of water.

The Basking Shark can be found in the Gulf of Alaska.

Are there sharks in Alaska – Surfers’ Guide

Basking sharks are classed as Vulnerable on the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list and are at risk of becoming an endangered species.

They do not attack humans. They may at first be mistaken for the Great White Shark, having a similar torpedo body shape, but they are not actually very similar at all. There have been recorded deaths associated with Basking Sharks, but this is because of collisions with boats. They aren’t predatory.

Bluntnose Sixgill Shark (Hexanchus griseus)

This large, deep-water shark is an example of a more primitive species found only as fossils dating from the Triassic period.

Sixgill Sharks are considered a Threatened species.

Are there sharks in Alaska – Surfers’ Guide

Humans are unlikely to encounter these sharks because they tend to be at great depths but even when encountered they are not considered a threat to humans unless provoked. According to the International Shark Attack File, there has been only one documented provoked attack on a human since the 1500s.

This shark appears to be at ease with divers, but doesn’t like to have physical contact or to be surrounded by humans. It has been reported to snap when touched by divers or caught by anglers.

Brown Cat Shark (Scyliorhinidae)

Catsharks get their name because their eyes reflect light, like those of a cat. The Brown Cat Shark is a cold-water species.

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They rarely venture into shallow water, so are rarely encountered by divers and are harmless to humans.

Thresher Shark (Alopias vulpinus)

The Thresher Shark is a Vulnerable species. The way the Thresher Shark uses its long tail fin to herd and stun multiple fish at once is unique to sharks.  

Are there sharks in Alaska – Surfers’ Guide (

The thresher shark is shy and harmless to humans and is unlikely to attack them.


There’s surfing in Alaska and there are sharks in Alaska but the two seldom meet.

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